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Rainbow Valley

IV. The Manse Children
Aunt Martha might be, and was, a very poor housekeeper; the Rev. John Knox
Meredith might be, and was, a very absent-minded, indulgent man. But it could
not be denied that there was something very homelike and lovable about the
Glen St. Mary manse in spite of its untidiness. Even the critical housewives of the
Glen felt it, and were unconsciously mellowed in judgment because of it. Perhaps
its charm was in part due to accidental circumstances--the luxuriant vines
clustering over its gray, clap-boarded walls, the friendly acacias and balm-of-
gileads that crowded about it with the freedom of old acquaintance, and the
beautiful views of harbour and sand-dunes from its front windows. But these
things had been there in the reign of Mr. Meredith's predecessor, when the
manse had been the primmest, neatest, and dreariest house in the Glen. So
much of the credit must be given to the personality of its new inmates. There was
an atmosphere of laughter and comradeship about it; the doors were always
open; and inner and outer worlds joined hands. Love was the only law in Glen St.
Mary manse.
The people of his congregation said that Mr. Meredith spoiled his children. Very
likely he did. It is certain that he could not bear to scold them. "They have no
mother," he used to say to himself, with a sigh, when some unusually glaring
peccadillo forced itself upon his notice. But he did not know the half of their
goings-on. He belonged to the sect of dreamers. The windows of his study
looked out on the graveyard but, as he paced up and down the room, reflecting
deeply on the immortality of the soul, he was quite unaware that Jerry and Carl
were playing leap-frog hilariously over the flat stones in that abode of dead
Methodists. Mr. Meredith had occasional acute realizations that his children were
not so well looked after, physically or morally, as they had been before his wife
died, and he had always a dim sub-consciousness that house and meals were
very different under Aunt Martha's management from what they had been under
Cecilia's. For the rest, he lived in a world of books and abstractions; and,
therefore, although his clothes were seldom brushed, and although the Glen
housewives concluded, from the ivory-like pallor of his clear-cut features and
slender hands, that he never got enough to eat, he was not an unhappy man.
If ever a graveyard could be called a cheerful place, the old Methodist graveyard
at Glen St. Mary might be so called. The new graveyard, at the other side of the
Methodist church, was a neat and proper and doleful spot; but the old one had
been left so long to Nature's kindly and gracious ministries that it had become
very pleasant.
It was surrounded on three sides by a dyke of stones and sod, topped by a gray
and uncertain paling. Outside the dyke grew a row of tall fir trees with thick,
balsamic boughs. The dyke, which had been built by the first settlers of the Glen,
was old enough to be beautiful, with mosses and green things growing out of its
crevices, violets purpling at its base in the early spring days, and asters and